Milestones for the C-130 – locally and internationally


Come month-end, the SA Air Force’s (SAAF’s) 28 Squadron will mark two major milestones – its 70th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of the venerable C-130BZ in service.

While the South African military transport aviators are still making do and will have to for a good few years more due to budget constraints, the newest version of Lockheed Martin’s dependable airlifter – the C-130J – has also reached a milestone of its own.

This month saw the worldwide community of C-130J users reach the landmark one million flight hours.

Countries with C-130Js contributing to these flight hours include (in order of delivery) the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Canada, India, Qatar, Oman, Iraq, Tunisia and Israel (now in flight test for a summer 2013 delivery). In the US, C-130Js are flown by the Air Force, Air Force Reserve Command, Air National Guard, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard units. Fifteen countries have chosen the C-130J as an airlifter of choice — including Kuwait and the Republic of Korea, which will join the fleet with C-130J deliveries in 2014.

At AFB Waterkloof, Colonel Jurgens Prinsloo is 28 Squadron boss, with overall responsibility for the nine C-130BZs in the SAAF inventory. Current availability is five while the remaining four are either being serviced or awaiting inspection.

The SAAF C-130s regularly fly to Sudan, the DRC and Uganda to provide logistic support for SA National Defence Force troops deployed on peace support and peacekeeping missions. One of the squadron’s aircraft has gone as far north as Malta to bring home South Africans, including diplomats, rushed out of North African countries during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

Immediately after it was first formed at Almaza in Egypt on June 1, 1943, 28 Squadron was split, with A flight based at Castel Benito in Italy and B flight at Ras-el-Ma in Morocco. Both flights operated Avro Ansons. By August the same year, Wellingtons and Dakotas were also on the squadron inventory.

In September 1945 the squadron returned permanently to South Africa and was based at AFB Swartkop from where it shuttled South African troops home from North Africa and Europe (the Springbok Shuttle) during 1945 and early 1946 using Dakotas, according to the Unofficial SAAF website. At this time they also operated the Anson, DH Rapide and a single Avro York. VIP flights remained an important part of 28 Squadron taskings, with various Dakotas and Venturas fitted out with improved accommodation.

From September 1948 to September 1949 two contingents participated in the Berlin Airlift, flying RAF aircraft. In 1949 nine De Havilland Devons were added to the VIP fleet, followed by DH Herons in 1955, while the York was disposed of in 1952. When the Dakota could no longer be used to fly VIPs to Europe a Viscount was acquired in 1958.

Seven C-130B Hercules were acquired in 1963 and when the squadron moved to AFB Waterkloof, it left its Dakotas behind to join 44 Squadron at Swartkop.

In February 1968 the VIP flight was reconstituted as 21 Squadron (taking with it the Viscount), while the C-160Z Transall was acquired in 1969 and operated with the squadron from January 1970 until they retired in 1993.

Three ex-USN C-130F aircraft were acquired in 1996 with a further two ex-USAF C-130B following in 1998. The F models were only flown for a short period before being retired. The squadron continues to fly the nine C-130B Hercules, all having been upgraded to C-130BZ configuration.